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Rapid COVID-19 home tests surge in India, experts flag risks

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A wholesale vendor displays Rapid Antigen Test kits at his outlet in Hyderabad, India on Wednesday. The use of rapid home tests has surged in India on the back of omicron cases, which have recently begun to decline.

INDIA, JAPAN, SOUTH KOREA, CANADA, JAPAN: On New Year’s Eve, the Indian Government wrote to states encouraging them to promote the use of Covid-19 home tests, especially for people who are experiencing symptoms, in a bid to avoid straining local health systems.

During last year’s delta-driven surge, an explosion in cases overwhelmed hospitals and testing labs. But last month, as new infections fueled by the omicron variant skyrocketed, so did the number of people testing themselves at home across India.

In the first 20 days of January, around 200,000 people shared their test results with India’s health agency – a 66-fold increase compared to all of 2021. The strategy apparently worked. Those testing positive with speedy, though less accurate tests were told to self-isolate at home, allowing hospital beds to remain available for the most vulnerable.

“If I had to guess, maybe only 20% of people using home tests are reporting it,” said K Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India, adding that every test result ideally should be reported so authorities can track the virus.

Meanwhile, Japan will ease its strict virus border rules to allow students and businesspeople into the country from March, but tourists will still be barred, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Thursday.

The move comes with growing pressure on Japan from the business community and academics to loosen the border restrictions, which are the toughest in the G7 but have broad support from Japanese voters.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s new daily COVID-19 cases topped 100,000 for the first time amid an Omicron outbreak, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said today, though deaths have remained relatively low in the highly vaccinated country.

The measures would be in place until at least March 13, officials said, after the March 9 presidential election. Meanwhile, Canada on Thursday approved Novavax Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine for people aged 18 years and older, making it the fifth such shot to be cleared for use in the country.

The vaccine’s safety and effectiveness in people younger than 18 years have not yet been established, Health Canada said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Japan set a new record for daily deaths from COVID-19 in a wave of Omicron-fuelled fatalities that a Government-affiliated researcher estimated may stretch into April.

A panel of health experts said this week that a surge of cases caused by the infectious Omicron variant appears to have peaked out, but hospitalisations and deaths would likely continue, particularly among the elderly.

Kyoto University professor Hiroshi Nishiura estimated that the Omicron wave would claim 4,339 lives between January and April 20, with more than 70% of the victims in their 80s or older. That number could be reduced depending on the progression of booster shots, acccording to Nishiura.


Saturday, February 19, 2022 – 01:00

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